Shane Lowry at Thracian Cliffs. Picture © Volvo in GolfShane Lowry has had the luck of the draw and avoided a first round showdown with Irish stablemate Graeme McDowell in this week’s Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria.

Having beaten world No 1 and former amateur team mate Rory McIlroy in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match in Arizona in February before losing to McDowell in the third round, the Offaly man might not have relished another encounter with the world No 8.

The round robin format has left Lowry idle for Thursday’s opening day at the spectacular Thracian Cliffs resort near Varna on the Black Sea.

On the top 16 seeded players will be in action, leaving Lowry, Stephen Gallacher, Brett Rumford, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Scott Jamieson, Thomas Aiken and Felipe Aguilar twiddling their thumbs.

Graeme McDowell practices on the shores of the Black Sea in Varna. © Volvo in GolfThe groups are as follows:

  • Ballesteros Graeme McDowell, Chris Wood and Stephen Gallacher
  • Gabrielsson Ian Poulter, Thongchai Jaidee and Thomas Aiken
  • Palmer Peter Hanson, George Coetzee and Shane Lowry
  • Larson Bo Van Pelt, Richard Sterne and Geoff Ogilvy
  • Woosnam Branden Grace, Nicolas Colsaerts and Kiradech Aphibarnrat
  • Norman Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari and Felipe Aguilar
  • McCormack Thorbjørn Olesen, Carl Pettersson and Scott Jamieson
  • Player Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño, Jamie Donaldson and Brett Rumford

The top two players in each group will progress to the knock-out stages consisting of the last 16 and quarter-finals, played on Saturday and semi-finals and final, played on Sunday.

All matches will be contested over 18 holes of traditional match play.

In the round-robin group stages of the tournament the three players in each group will play each other once. Players will be awarded two points for a win, zero points for a loss and one each if the match is all square. 

If, after all matches have been played, two or more players are tied on points the following criteria will be used to determine the order:

  1. Where two players are tied within a group (in any position within the group) then their specific head to head match result will be used to identify which player is placed higher
  2. If two or more players are still tied then those players will compete in a hole-by-hole play-off
  3. If all three players win one match in their respective group then all three players shall play-off.

Lowry misses Thursday but will have his stamina tested on Friday when he takes on South African George Coetzee in the morning followed by a tussle with Swedish Ryder Cup player Peter Hanson after lunch.

Graeme McDowell. © Volvo in GolfThe Offaly man, who is taking steps to improve his fitness, will not be fazed by playing 36 holes in a day though he has not done so regularly in competition since his amateur days.

As for McDowell, who lost to Nicolas Colsaers in last year’s final at Finca Cortesin in Spain, the Portrush man will take on England’s Chris Wood on Thursday and Scot Stephen Gallacher on Friday.

Wood and Gallacher should do some research.

Rory McIlroy got a taste of the famous McDowell “cold shoulder treatment” at Finca Cortesin in 2011, losing 3 and 2 and getting so annoyed that he threew his putter and kicked his ball into a bush.

Asked about the cool atmosphere, McIlroy said: “I wasn’t going to really engage in any conversation – that was the plan from the start - and it looked like he had the same idea.”

Shane Lowry celebrates in practice. © Volvo in GolfMcIlroy only realised that when he saw McDowell hare away down the first fairway. And Lowry got a taste of the same medicine in Arizona, where he also lost 3 and 2 to the 2010 Ryder Cup hero:

“Graeme was quite tough to play against. I think he psyched me out a bit. He’s obviously a great match player and knows what he’s doing. He won the battle that day.

Q How so?

SL “I’m very good friends with Graeme … there wasn’t any chat at all. It took me by surprise because the first couple of days, there was chat for the first couple of holes and then obviously you’d get down to the business end of things.”

Volvo Match Play Groups Stages